Can Victor Ortiz Find His Courage Saturday Night?

By Samuel Rivera: In Boxing what’s “inside” Counts!

If there was ever a poster child for Teddy Atlas’ “Boxing is 75 percent mental and 25 percent physical” it would be young 24 year old Victor Ortiz (28-2-2-22 Kos). As junior welterweight Ortiz had seemly every conceivable advantage and physical gifts a boxer could want. He was over sized for the division with a junior middleweight frame; he was fast and powerful with both hands. Only Amir Khan has comparable talent and size advantages in the division.

Not surprisingly before running into the fists of one Marcos Maidana (30-2-27 Kos), Ortiz was living up to his moniker “Vicious” knocking out and out classing pretty much everyone at 140, to such degree that Golden Boy proclaimed him to be the next Golden Boy, and the next big thing in boxing.

Enter Marcos “El Chino” Maidana, the Argentine was chosen as an opponent as Golden Boy probably didn’t know much about him before hand and figured that Ortiz could handle a man he physically over matched in every aspect expect punching power, a category in which they were more or less equal. Golden Boy however failed to take into account the intangibles that aren’t easily seen in a prospect until he runs into adversity; heart and mental fortitude.

So on June 27, 2009 heart and mental fortitude trumped athleticism as Marcos Maidana made Victor Ortiz quit after sending him down with a barrage of punches in the sixth round of a fantastic fight.

Quitting is one of boxing’s cardinals sins, so the act of quitting even as he was being pummeled by Maidana (a certified beast) was guaranteed to earn Victor some backlash from boxing fans and writers alike. It was however the post fight comments that would forever haunt Ortiz , as it is those comments that have prevented me from picking him to win on Saturday against undefeated Welterweight title holder Andre Berto (27-0-21 Kos).

Ortiz Quit In A Fight He Was Very Much In!

Ortiz went tooth and nail with Maidana for the better part of 5 rounds, it was for as long as it lasted; one of the most brutal spectacles of power punching in recent memory with each man taking trips to the canvas, which is why it was so shocking to see Ortiz concede defeat after being sent down by Marcos in the sixth. Ortiz had the tools to beat Maidana, he had a chance to put Maidana on his back as Maidana is there to be hit and Ortiz is a power puncher. But Ortiz didn’t have the heart or the mental fortitude needed to accomplish this or even to give it a try when it became clear to him that Maidana had come to win or die trying or at the very least get KTFO.

The post fight comments though honest revealed Ortiz’s character far better than his actions in the ring did and that it’s something that rarely ever happens as it usually is the other way around when it comes to fighters. Ortiz quit because “I don’t deserve to get hit like this.” In other words Maidana went into the ring that night (and every night it seems) willing to die in order to win which is the right mentality for a fighter especially one who specializes on putting pressure, Ortiz went into the ring with the mentality that he was willing to win as long as he wasn’t getting hurt badly in return, and when he was he probably feared for his health which prompted him to quit.

Fear of Pain and Death Normal but Has No Place in a Fighter’s Mind in the Midst of Combat

Its okay to fear for your long term health and it is acceptable to quit if you are getting pounded on the head by Marcos Maidana…if you are not a professional fighter. No one told Victor Ortiz he had to fight professionally, and certainly Victor Ortiz seemed to enjoy the ride as he was beating over-matched opponents. If you want to be a world champ, then you have to be willing to give your all in the ring is quite as simple as that. As cold as that statement sounds, at the elite level there are no easy fights, you are going to get hit and you are going to get hurt, it is what you do after that happens that defines how good you are and whether or not you deserve the multimillion dollar pay days that come with winning titles and winning important fights.

Boxing is the most brutal of sports, and fighters die in the ring Victor Ortiz isn’t a coward the fact that he steps into the ring shows that there is a degree of courage in him, but fighters are measured to a different standard especially those who are perceived to be of championship caliber. Fighters of this caliber are expected to get in to the ring and fight to win.

Usually most fighters live up to these standards as Erik Morales and the aforementioned Marcos Maidana demonstrated last weekend. Heck in even poor Michael Katsidis gives it his all each and every time, even when in the middle of hopeless situations.

Fighters are supposed to be proud and brave they are modern day gladiators it is the reason Antonio Margartio never quit during the one sided beat down he took from Manny Pacquiao, he took his beating like a man and he might suffer ills effects from that beating years from now, but his pride…that wasn’t taken away from him that night.

There are instances where quitting is the smart thing to do, take a look at Ivan Calderon against Giovanni Segura in their rematch. Calderon quit because he was old, had already sealed his legacy in the sport, and had no punching power to get himself out of the hole he was in, he had no shot at beating Segura, when this became clear he decided he had enough, and bowed out.

Ortiz in the other hand was different as he had the punching power to turn things around, he was 22 and in the middle of an evenly fought war and quit because he didn’t want to get hit even though he had a shot at winning (as he admitted to the world afterwards).

Not only he had no legacy to speak of in the sport because he was supposedly a young hungry prospect/contender, but it is during these stages that champions in the making are proven…Miguel Cotto didn’t quit when Ricardo Torres fought back for example and even at the elite level true champions do not yield.

Juan Manuel Marquez didn’t quit when Manny Pacquiao sent him three times to the canvas in the opening round of their first fight, Fernando Vargas sure as heck didn’t think about quitting when Trinidad almost killed him in their fight…he kept getting up from disastrous Knockdowns in the 12th…the aforementioned fighters didn’t quit when push came to shove and because of that they were and some still are championship caliber fighters, the elite as one might say. Vargas was ruined after that fight but El Feroz is still is Ferocious in my book because never in his career did he disgraced his moniker.

Victor Ortiz in the inside might not be championship material, and it wasn’t just the Maidana fight that tells us this, his last fight with Lamont Peterson (28-1-1-14 Kos) is perhaps the most clear example of what the future holds for Ortiz . He was a Junior Middleweight fighting a Junior Welter, he towered in size and strength over small Lamont, and he looked good in hurting and sending Peterson to the floor early…that’s what his talent and physical gifts are supposed to enable him to do, blow out a solid Lamont Peterson (Like Miguel Cotto used to do in his prime against smaller Jr. Welters).

However Peterson while small in punching power was big in resiliency and began to tag Ortiz back with counters, so what does Ortiz do? He sucks it up, walks through the smaller man’s punches, punishes him and stops him in the mid rounds….NOPE! Ortiz instead takes off and runs turning a seemly easy fight into a draw, it was funny to see David (Lamont) chasing Goliath (Ortiz) around because had Ortiz pressed the issue early he would have gotten Peterson out of there.

Which brings us to Andre Berto on Saturday night, Ortiz took this fight because A. he could no longer make 140 and B. he might as well fight for a big paycheck and a title rather than risk losing to a Kermit Cintron type of contender for less rewards.

Berto-Ortiz a Matter of Heart?

Ortiz’s only saving grace here is that he has actually faced the better completion to get there (Maidana-Peterson) and Berto is largely unproven and has had trouble with southpaws (namely Luis Collazo). Berto has been hurt by mediocre punchers before and perhaps Ortiz’s brain trust believes Ortiz can do the same, either that or they gave up on him and want to cash out on him before he is sent to oblivion.

In Berto, Ortiz faces a physical equal (Ortiz might be more talented) a guy who hits fast and hard, but unlike Ortiz , Berto did show some courage and will in his close fight with Collazo which why I favor Al Haymon’s protégé in this interesting pairing on HBO.

Quite simply you either have heart or you don’t, I don’t think Ortiz quitting Maidana was a spur of the moment thing because he has looked tentative in every fight ever since. If you quit once in fight that you had a chance to win, chances are you will quit twice when put in a similar situation. Ortiz can only win this fight if the following two scenarios play out: Ortiz catches Berto cold early and finishes him off, or if some how he boxes Andre’s ears off which Ortiz is capable of doing but I am not sure he has the mental discipline to pull it off.

There is a possible third scenario in which we have a war between the two fighters and Ortiz out lasts Berto…however the Maidana comments and the image of Ortiz backing away from Peterson linger freshly in my mind, so freshly in my mind that I wouldn’t put any money into this scenario happening.

Other than that expect a good fight for a few rounds, but if little Lamont Peterson was chasing Ortiz around, then big Andre Berto (who is still a bit undersized when compared to Victor) will run him out of the ring! Once Ortiz gets tagged in the face by a Berto power punch he will fall apart and go into survival mode he will either lose a wide UD or get TKO’d in the mid to late rounds.

Ortiz can’t win this fight if he doesn’t stand and trade with his feet and more importantly confidence under him. Since the Maidana fight Ortiz hasn’t demonstrated anything that gives him a chance here (unless Berto turns out to be not as good a fighter as I think he is), it is up to Victor Ortiz to prove me and every critic wrong, if he wins here most likely some of his sins will be forgiven, but can Ortiz find his courage on Saturday? We shall see… Ortiz certainly has all the physical tools.

*Note: I had a dream two days ago in which Ortiz caught Berto with a straight left in the sixth and sent him down, funny considering in my analysis I have him losing but I just want it to throw this out there in case lightning strikes.

Samuel Rivera can be contacted at:

Article posted on 15.04.2011

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